The Texas State Aquarium has partnered with several organizations to conduct surveys and research on the sharks in the Corpus Christi Bay.

Texas State Aquarium, The Nature Conservancy, and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Unite to Study Sharks

In 2019, experts from three prominent Texas conservation organizations, the Texas State Aquarium (TSA), The Nature Conservancy, and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), collaborated on a shark electronic tagging and research expedition in the Gulf of Mexico, which gathered data to help scientists discover where these ocean predators travel and reproduce. The TPWD regularly conducts censuses of marine species, known as fisheries independent surveys, to help determine the health of the state’s marine populations and ecosystems. This time, advocates for the Texas State Aquarium were also permitted to be aboard to assist with data collection.

During the survey, shark species including blacktip, bull, and fine-tooth sharks, were brought aboard the TPWD research vessel, San Jacinto, where scientists measured and weighed them and determined their gender. The sharks were also tagged by TPWD using plastic tags so they could track their movement after release. During the expedition, the Texas State Aquarium’s Head Veterinarian Dr. Yaw also performed brief ultrasounds on female sharks to determine their reproductive status with a new portable ultrasound machine obtained by the Texas State Aquarium Wildlife Rescue Center. Some of the sharks were also equipped with special acoustic electronic tags by Dr. Brenner and Dr. Yaw. Placement of the acoustic tags required a short surgical procedure for placement of the tags in the shark’s abdomens. Using underwater sound receivers that ping off these tags, scientists will be able to obtain location data to study the migration patterns of coastal sharks for up to five years.

With shark numbers dropping at alarming rates worldwide due to a variety of threats such as habitat loss and overfishing, scientists are urgently collecting data that they hope will protect these ocean predators. Experts say that knowing the swim patterns of the different shark species in our coastal waters can aid in their conservation. For example, the data from shark tagging and tracking can help identify key areas to prioritize for protection, such as important mating, feeding, or nursery grounds.


The Texas State Aquarium (TSA) partnered with the Marine Genomics Laboratory at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi (TAMUCC) in its ongoing research assessing Corpus Christi Bay as a nursery ground for sharks. From March through October 2021, the Aquarium assisted with this research by providing its rescue vessel along with skilled staff members to help the University’s team during fieldwork. Previous research has demonstrated that the Corpus Christi-Aransas Bay system provides a critical habitat for several species of sharks, including spinner sharks, bonnetheads, bull sharks, and scalloped hammerheads.

Estuaries are commonly inhabited by elasmobranchs (sharks, rays, etc.) where females give birth and juveniles remain for some time. Due to a lack of information about elasmobranchs in the Bay, Dr. Portnoy from TAMUCC approached the Texas State Aquarium in search of resources to help continue the study. The survey’s main objective is to identify all sharks and rays caught in the Corpus Christi Bay area and collect environmental data at the time of capture. Additionally, Dr. Portnoy and the TSA aim to help the community better understand the sharks that live in the Corpus Christi-Aransas Bay system, “The Aquarium not only has shark exhibits, but spreads conservation messages about sharks, so this partnership makes sense,” said Dr. Portnoy.

TAMUCC scientists, researchers, and the Aquarium’s staff members engaged in a monthly longline and gillnet survey, sampling three core areas from March to October. Shark species including spinner sharks, bonnetheads, bull sharks, and many other elasmobranchs, were brought aboard the TSA research vessel. Scientists tagged the sharks, gathered their measurements, collected DNA samples, and then released them back into the Bay.

With the information gathered by this survey, the Aquarium hopes to implement new ways to educate the public about how vital and critical the Corpus Christi Bay area is for pregnant sharks and their offspring.